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How You Can Thrive as a Teen in a Small Church

Small Youth Group

I’m a small church pastor. That’s where my calling is. I belong in churches where I’ve been to everyone’s house and know their dog’s name. What about my teenaged kids? What’s in it for them? If you are a teenager, is there a small church blessing for you?

I talked to my teens, did a little research, gave it some thought and prayer, and here’s what I came up with: four big benefits to “teening” in a small church (a phrase which my 14-year-old said was “corny, but fun”).

If you’re a small churcher, chances are your youth group it isn’t very big. While it may not seem as exciting as the rock band youth meetings you hear about from your friends at the megachurch in the next city over, you have some built in opportunities that leaders of larger churches work hard to create.

1. You may not be able to build a giant paint ball team for a fun outing or find a date to prom, but that’s not really what youth ministry is all about anyway. You have authentic community just sort of baked into your church. It’s there whether you want it or not. If you welcome it, you have the opportunity to be a part of a deep authentic community of acceptance. That is something hard to find.

Life in the Kingdom of God isn’t about size. It is about scope and depth. In your little youth group, it’s impossible not to know the other kids when there’s only six or twelve of them. Teening in a small church forces you to do life with the neighbor God placed next to you on that old couch for circle time. And you know what? That’s how real life works. We seldom choose our boss at work, our neighbor next door, or the weird brother-in-law we got stuck with when we married his sister!   

Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. – Romans 15:7 (NLT)

We live in a hiding culture. People spend all day communicating online, on their phone, or at work or school – and are left feeling isolated. They get lost in the crowds. But, you have a precious opportunity to reflect Jesus as you accept who God put next to you in youth group. Get comfortable. Open up. Let the Lord lead you into friendship, even with kids you may not have picked out to be your friend.

When you need acceptance, your small church youth group can be the place you turn when you need to see the mercy of Jesus reflected in someone else’s eyes.

2. Small churches function like families. I get it. You may find it hard enough to function in your own family, let alone figure out your role in the church family. 

Here’s the thing, teening in a small church means that regardless of your family dynamics at home, you’ve got access to a bunch of folks who care about you.

Those elderly men and women you literally run into on your way to coffee hour at the end of service – they love you. Listen. They love you. They accept you for who you are. My wife Christina lost her grandfather right around the time I accepted my first pastoral role. There was a sweet old man in the church who, upon hearing of her recent loss, put his arm around her and tearfully said, “I’ll be your grandpa.” He meant it. Teening in a small church means you probably have no shortage of church family who will gladly be your grandpa if you need it.

Our children will also serve Him. Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord. – Psalm 22:30 (NLT)

You have a small church packed with people who are willing to share the love and wonder of God with those future generations – that’s you.

3. Small church pastors tend to have shepherding gifts. Some are great preachers. Some are great teachers. But nearly all have stuck around local church because they are genuinely called to shepherd people’s souls. 

Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. – II Timothy 4:2 (NLT)

Your pastor isn’t just there to preach sermons. I can say with great assurance, the minister in your life wants to be in your life. They want to help you know Christ and live out the Kingdom of God in the world in the details of your life.

In small churches, you don’t have to figure out the religious or the ridiculous stuff of life alone. Teening in a small church means you have a pastor who is available.

4. Perhaps the greatest blessing of the small church usually comes masked as a burden. It is tough to hide from service in a small church! Don’t try. Go all in and learn, really learn, that service is the key component of discipleship. Do you want to grow as a disciple of Jesus? Do you want to go deeper in your relationship to God while becoming the kind of person who achieves godly goals and wins spiritual battles? Small churches don’t have the resources or manpower to rely on somebody else. Small churches do a good job of getting people’s hands to the plow. Don’t look back.

Jesus told him, anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God. – Luke 9:62 (NLT)

From raking leaves to serving food with a few other church members at a soup kitchen in Detroit, small churches get us engaged in working together for the Gospel. Embrace it! Learn obedience. That is a jewel of lasting treasure.

Teening in small church bring the big benefits associated with genuine community. Sure, there is work involved but God’s looking for a few more laborers just like you.

He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more workers into His fields.’ – Matthew 9:37-38 (NLT)

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